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Tips for ACT and SAT Target Scores

Here at the Learning Island we recommend that each student planning to take the ACT or SAT sets a target score. A target score helps a student stay on track by giving the student a goal to work towards beyond just “as high as possible.” But how do you go about setting a target score and ensuring that you are on track to meet it? In this lesson, we’re going to provide some tips for choosing and working towards a target score.


Setting a Target Score

Your first step for setting a target score should be to find out the minimum scores the colleges you plan to apply to require for admission. Many colleges list these scores on their websites. If a college does not, you can request them from the admissions office.


Keep in mind that the minimum scores required to be considered for admission are exactly that. Therefore, you should always set your target score higher than the minimum. How much higher depends on how competitive admissions are to your first choice college. If a college requires a minimum ACT composite score of 24 but receives relatively few applications, a target score of 26 will give you a good chance of being accepted. If, on the other hand, you are applying to an extremely popular college with a minimum score of 24, you will want to set your target score closer to a 30.


The Next Step

Once you’ve decided on a target score, you need to assess how long it will take you to reach that score. As general rule, you should start studying no less than six weeks before your test date. Six weeks provides just enough time for most students to pull their ACT scores up by a few points or their SAT scores up by around 100 points. If the gap between your current and target scores is larger than this, such as in our 20 to 30 point example, you will want to allow for at least 2 to 3 months of consistent prep sessions between when you start and when you take the test.


Consistency is the key to improving your ACT or SAT score. Both exams are intentionally designed to be difficult to cram for. Furthermore, you don’t want studying for the exam to distract from other factors important to college admissions, such as your GPA or extracurricular activities. Regular tutoring or self-study sessions 2 to 3 times a week are the most effective way to reach your target score.


Reaching Your Target Score

ACT and SAT scores are scaled, so the higher your target score, the smaller the margin for error. Most students see a sizeable jump in practice score tests when they begin preparing, especially if they are working with an experienced tutor who knows all of the tricks and tips for the ACT or SAT.


What this means is that your rate of progress will almost certainly slow as you get closer to your target. For instance, if you have a current ACT score of 20 and set a target of 30, getting from 20 to 25 will be easier and take less time than getting from 25 to 30 will. Don’t get discouraged if you hit a point where your practice scores seem to slow or stall. The ACT and SAT teachers of the Learning Island can help you close that remaining gap between where you are now and where you need to be on exam day.


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